What is meant by the term Operating System?

What is meant by the term “Operating System”? Also, explain the main functions of an operating system.

Operating System

An operating system (OS) is system software that manages computer hardware, software resources, and provides common services for computer programs. Operating systems are found on many devices that contain a computer – from cellular phones and video game consoles to web servers and supercomputers.

An operating system brings powerful benefits to computer software and software development. Without an operating system, every application would need to include its own UI, as well as the comprehensive code needed to handle all low-level functionality of the underlying computer, such as disk storage, network interfaces, and so on. Considering the vast array of underlying hardware available, this would vastly bloat the size of every application and make software development impractical.

Instead, many common tasks, such as sending a network packet or displaying text on a standard output device, such as a display, can be offloaded to system software that serves as an intermediary between the applications and the hardware. The system software provides a consistent and repeatable way for applications to interact with the hardware without the applications needing to know any details about the hardware.

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Functions of Operating System

An Operating System acts as a communication bridge (interface) between the user and computer hardware. The purpose of an operating system is to provide a platform on which a user can execute programs in a convenient and efficient manner.

An operating system is a piece of software that manages the allocation of computer hardware. The coordination of the hardware must be appropriate to ensure the correct working of the computer system and to prevent user programs from interfering with the proper working of the system.
Example: Just like a boss gives orders to his employee, in a similar way we request or pass our orders to the Operating System. The main goal of the Operating System is to thus make the computer environment more convenient to use and the secondary goal is to use the resources in the most efficient manner.

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Important functions of an operating System: 

  1. Security
    The operating system uses password protection to protect user data and similar other techniques. it also prevents unauthorized access to programs and user data.
  2. Control over system performance 
    Monitors overall system health to help improve performance. records the response time between service requests and system response to have a complete view of the system health. This can help improve performance by providing important information needed to troubleshoot problems.
  3. Job accounting 
    Operating system Keeps track of time and resources used by various tasks and users, this information can be used to track resource usage for a particular user or group of users.
  4. Error detecting aids 
    The operating system constantly monitors the system to detect errors and avoid the malfunctioning of a computer system.
  5. Coordination between other software and users 
    Operating systems also coordinate and assign interpreters, compilers, assemblers, and other software to the various users of the computer systems.
  6. Memory Management 
    The operating system manages the Primary Memory or Main Memory. Main memory is made up of a large array of bytes or words where each byte or word is assigned a certain address. Main memory is fast storage and it can be accessed directly by the CPU. For a program to be executed, it should be first loaded in the main memory. An Operating System performs the following activities for memory management:

It keeps track of primary memory, i.e., which bytes of memory are used by which user program. The memory addresses that have already been allocated and the memory addresses of the memory that has not yet been used. In multiprogramming, the OS decides the order in which processes are granted access to memory, and for how long. It Allocates the memory to a process when the process requests it and deallocates the memory when the process has terminated or is performing an I/O operation.

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  1. Processor Management 
    In a multi-programming environment, the OS decides the order in which processes have access to the processor, and how much processing time each process has. This function of OS is called process scheduling. An Operating System performs the following activities for processor management.

Keeps track of the status of processes. The program which performs this task is known as a traffic controller. Allocates the CPU that is a processor to a process. De-allocates processor when a process is no more required.

  1. Device Management 
    An OS manages device communication via their respective drivers. It performs the following activities for device management. Keeps track of all devices connected to the system. designates a program responsible for every device known as the Input/Output controller. Decides which process gets access to a certain device and for how long. Allocates devices in an effective and efficient way. Deallocates devices when they are no longer required.
  2. File Management 
    A file system is organized into directories for efficient or easy navigation and usage. These directories may contain other directories and other files. An Operating System carries out the following file management activities. It keeps track of where information is stored, user access settings and status of every file, and more… These facilities are collectively known as the file system.

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